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No harmony in the union

  • Published at 12:52 pm July 12th, 2017
  • Last updated at 01:05 pm July 12th, 2017
No harmony in the union

Judges and civil servants provide public service. Let us break down the phrase “pubic service” to its basic essence.

Public service is about serving the public. Public interest ought to be the one and only determinant in these services.

Public service is not a mechanism to give varied types of work experience to public servants or to foster unity in a country or any such other aim. When these and other extraneous factors become primary determinants in “public service,” then the whole idea of public service stands abused.

It then becomes a mechanism to serve vested interests in the name of the public. The public ends up serving public servants. Nowhere is this more true in the way all-India services operate.

Recently, the Indian government floated the idea of an All India Judicial Service, wherein judges would be recruited for courts all over the Indian Union much akin to the IAS system. This is aimed to replace the specific existing practises in the different states and high courts.

This will be a huge mechanism of Delhi control over the judiciary and will affect the independence of courts everywhere.

Moreover, such a service completely negates the importance of specific local knowledge and understanding of conditions that is crucial to justice dispensation in any system. No wonder, bar associations and lawyer organisations all over the Indian Union have vehemently opposed this idea.

Let me give you an example as to why this all-India business is incompatible with the diverse federation that is the Indian Union.

Recently, in a lower court in West Bengal, a judge from a Hindi-speaking state commented on the religion of the senior advocate on a case. The lawyers of all religions protested this immediately. This is not the culture of West Bengal. In West Bengal, the tradition of anti-communalism is very strong.

However, it is well known that in many local courts of UP and Bihar, where communal polarisation has strong social base, many Muslim advocates actually send out a Hindi advocate to appear in court so that the religion of the advocate on the case does not affect the outcome of the trial.

This is unthinkable in West Bengal. Now if, people with such prejudices are recruited from anywhere and everywhere and they occupy judicial positions in states where communalism is frowned upon, this will vitiate the atmosphere.

There is a need to preserve what good exists in the system. Such all-India formulae of any kind bring in rank outsiders without basic cultural literacy of the area of their jurisdiction. This will even compound problems further as these people, in most cases, will not know the social realities of the state or the language of the state.

There is a need to preserve what good exists in the system. Such all-India formulae of any kind bring in rank outsiders without basic cultural literacy of the area of their jurisdiction

Madras and Calcutta High courts do not allow Tamil or Bangla for court proceedings but Allahabad High Court allows Hindi. This inequality exists.

All-India services will undermine local language and customs even further and thus increase the gulf between the justice seeker and the process of justice. This problem already exists in a very bad way when it comes to banking officers. People are recruited through all-India mechanisms. They are not posted according to their proficiency in the language of the state they are posted to. Thus, there are many bank clerks, managers, and officers who simply do not know the customer’s language.

What kind of public service is this? Is this not a violation of the right of a Tamil in Tamil Nadu to have all services in Tamil and be understood by the banking institutions when he/she interfaces with it?

Again, the culprit is an all-India system of recruitment. A state-based system with the pre-condition of knowing the primary language of a state will be much more people-friendly.

The same goes for BSF-CISF-CRPF postings all over the Indian Union. These all-India services post security personnel in areas with people whose languages they don’t speak and they don’t understand.

Dangerous areas

When men with guns don’t understand what you speak, then the situation is as disastrous as any BSF patrolled area in Assam or West Bengal will attest.

Locals dread the BSF. Cultural and linguistic aliens lord over the border regions, they bark and frisk people in airports in Hindi and this creates huge alienation between these forces and the people.

Is it too much to ask that at least those who know the language of a state and are natives of a state be posted in a state in non-war times?

The Indian Union is not officially at war. What is wrong in creating state-specific recruitment for military and para-military forces, where state domicile and competency in the primary language of a state are pre-conditions?

All this can be tied at the top under a central command but the service itself becomes decentralised, efficient, and people-friendly. Moreover, this will ensure that every state will get their share in the number of jobs of these services that are allotted to the state. This creates harmony.

When people speaking a certain language and originating from certain states are overrepresented in all states in sensitive professions such these, it is a formula for discontent and disharmony.

This is also a colonial policy where the military and paramiltary was an external occupation force. Close relationship with the people was frowned upon. Thus Gurkhas were posted in Nagaland, Nagas were posted in Chattisgarh and such.

Why should a de-colonised entity like the Indian Union follow such a colonial policy? Naga members of the Indian Army with their close relationship with people of Nagaland getting their postings in Nagaland should be the ideal. That is, if the people come first, not some other vested interest.

The biggest problem in this regard comes from the elite all-India service of IAS and IPS. What is the need of a cadre recruited of an all-India basis overseeing bureaucratic matters that are in the concurrent and state list? Can state governments trust such folks as Indian Union is entering a phase where Delhi is hell-bent to completely destroy state rights?

To understand that, it’s important we look at the colonial origins of the IAS. We must remember that the institutional father of the Indian Army is the British Indian Army.

The Indian Administrative Service’s (IAS) father was called the Imperial Civil Service. The “I” in the imperial shows it to be alive and kicking in these “Indian” times. A ridiculous situation exists where functions of the state and concurrent list, that constitutionally belong to the state and not to the centre, are largely staffed by IAS officers deputed from Delhi.

Every state is thus ruled, de facto, by these Delhi-deputed folks. While there is no dearth of accomplished people in every state civil services, it is by design that the primary administrators in all of the states are deputed from Delhi.

It is time to ask, why the people of the states, states with dignity, states with ability, need Delhi deputed generalists to administer affairs on their behalf even for issues that is completely their business and not Delhi’s.

The Indian Union is a federalist union. In a true federal union, states manage their affairs. There is no reason why there should be any IAS officer in any job that falls within the ambit of the state list or concurrent list, as described in the Indian Union.

This diverse public needs public institutions and public servants who represent this diversity by being socio-culturally rooted in the regions they serve.

Garga Chatterjee is a political and cultural commentator. He can be followed on twitter @gargac.

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